Two recent stories out of Latin America highlight some of the stranger ways the media plays a role in international diplomacy.
The first is minor. Living in Peru blog has an article on a recent diplomatic dispute between Bolivia and Peru:
“Bolivia’s Minister of Culture Elizabeth Salguero has requested clarification on the “plagiarism” of a Bolivian song performed by Dina Páucar in the new video for Peru’s new national brand campaign. Salguero argues the song belongs to Bolivian singer and songwriter, Alfonso Zabala, and was modified without permission.”
The idea is to show Peruvians bringing Peruvian culture to the town of Peru, Nebraska. LatAmThought remains unsure if the campaign will entice Colombia to bring its hearts to Bogota, New Jersey.
Though this will likely not spark a major international incident between the two countries, it is nonetheless an example of the potential damage to international relations from media generated internally.
The next example is a bit more serious.
Panama recently lost a case it filed in a Costa Rican court against a digital newspaper, El Pais (www.elpais.cr). The Panamanian government accused the paper of making slanderous comments that “had the potential to harm friendly relations between Costa Rica and Panama.”
Whether the allegations are true or not (given that one states the Panama Canal is controlled by the Israeli Secret Service, it is difficult to judge their veracity), Panama may actually have made the situation worse by calling attention to it. El Pais is a fringe, digital paper and not a particularly influential medium. Nonetheless, it has the potential to harm Costa Rican-Panamanian relations by virtue of the fact that it is a Costa Rican paper publishing things against Panama and that Panamanian authorities were upset enough by it to file a case in a Costa Rican court.
(Ironically, by calling attention to the Peru in Peru campaign, Bolivia may have given it more publicity than it would have otherwise generated).
What these two seemingly unrelated stories tell us is that when a particular medium assumes a country’s brand – a Costa Rican paper, a TV spot on Peru – official policy, whether intended or not, is often not far away.